January can be depressing. We may have financial or emotional hangovers because the holiday excitement is over. Our Christmas bills come in. Our homes feel empty after family and friends leave. Or we feel hollow if a loved one has recently passed away. We can be frustrated with the cold temperatures, bundling up to even step outside. We yearn for longer, warmer days to cheer us.
How can we be thankful followers of Christ in winter? How can our thankful hearts and attitudes change our perspective and encourage others?
My Winter Journal of Thankfulness
It was a winter of the Arctic vortex on steroids.
Several years ago, snow fell in October—and stayed. That winter was long and cold, and the Southern Alberta Chinooks seldom came. Snow continued to pile up until April’s thaw melted it.
To counter my twinges of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) that winter, I journaled about God’s many footprints. Snow sparkling in the sunlight like so many diamonds. Tiny deer tracks in fresh snow up our cul-de-sac. The golden cloud in early morning sunlight, until the wind of the cold front and snow blew in and blotted out the sun.
|What that winter felt like!!|
My journal recorded not only the joyous moments. Several times I wrote about “difficult thanks”; on frigid blustery days I recognized God’s sovereignty over His creation and the winter season. On those days I was particularly thankful for a warm house, adequate winter clothes, a car that worked in the cold, and city workers who plowed out our streets.
Unfortunately I didn’t continue recording moments of thankfulness.
…until this last summer.
At a ladies’ retreat, our guest speaker, Heidi McLaughlin, shared entries from her “Journal of Thanks”. She was thankful for items even as small as her bed’s soft sheets. Heidi inspired me to again journal several things each day for which I was thankful.
I didn’t realize how this practice changed my writing until I reread my 2016 journal.
It was a real eye-opener!
Normally I keep this journal for daily time with God and how He is speaking to me about my concerns. But when I began adding daily thanks items (including “difficult thanks”), the tone of my writing changed to one of gratitude for friends, family, unique experiences, His Word, and for God Himself.
Thanks and praise had lifted my writing to a higher plane. I began to include more thankfulness and praise in my regular entries.
As I meditated on this month’s theme, I realized the great potential for being thankful. If it were possible, we could thank God for something in each moment of the day.
We could be like Brother Lawrence, whose duty was to wash pots and pans in a Carmelite Monastery. Daily he practiced the presence of God and let love transform everything he did.
What does thankfulness do?
Thankfulness, along with prayer and petition, is the antidote to our worry and anxiety (Philippians 4:6).
Thankfulness takes our focus off ourselves and opens us to worship our Creator, Saviour and Lord.
Thankfulness gives our writing a fuller message so that our readers can meet God in new ways.
A Chinese pastor developed a daily habit of thankfulness while in prison. He encouraged us:
"Every morning when you wake up, don't get up; just stay in bed and for ten minutes thank God for anything that comes into your mind. It might be the wallpaper, it might be for friends, it might just be for life. Anything. Once you get going you discover that the world is full of grace, God's grace. With that attitude you are ready to live the day for God, because you are overwhelmed at how generous God is to you."
Now it’s your turn. Take your notebook, a cappuccino or hot chocolate and curl up in your favourite chair or sofa. Write about what you’re thankful for this winter, in many areas of your life and writing. What does your thankfulness tell you? How will thankfulness open you to new ways God is speaking to you about your faith and writing this year?